Happy International Women’s Day! As the world celebrates the powerful roles women have at home, at work and in society, Marvel Studios is taking audiences behind the scenes of some of their biggest films and iconic personalities with a new documentary series, MPower. Throughout four 40-minute episodes, fans will learn more about Marvel’s female characters, the actors who embody those roles and the creative voices behind the lens who help to develop and bring these stories to life.
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For nearly a decade and a half, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has changed the way audiences look at superhero films. Just like the comics, Marvel Studios approached their stories with intentional, interconnected plots and characters that build off each other and propel the story forward. One of my favorite things about this structure is that more time is spent developing individual characters which gives the audience time to get to know them better. This is crucial to understanding how characters think, and why they respond the way they do. It’s also given fans the opportunity to see bits or all of themselves represented in heroes, especially women.
MPower is all about the female voices in the MCU both on screen and behind the camera. The series presents thoughtful interviews and soundbites from actors, costume designers, producers, writers and beyond who worked on Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, WandaVision, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more. The structure is both new and familiar, combining current interviews along with behind the scenes clips from production of films dating back a few years. Unlike the Disney+ series Assembled that focuses on the making of Phase 4 films and series (WandaVision to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), MPower dives into the characters, the cast, production secrets and even introduces some superfans who have a strong attachment to the stories.
The first episode is about the Women of Black Panther and features Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Guriara, Angela Bassett, Florence Kasumba, Ruth Carter, Hannah Beachler, Camille Friend, Debbie Berman and more. While much of the documentary is true to that medium, Marvel has cleverly inserted comic style animation at certain points to help further explain an actor’s “Origin Story.” As Guriara, Nyong’o, and Kasumba talk about their varied cultural upbringings, deep appreciation for their countries, and key moments in their lives, we see these moments play out as if they were a comic come to life. It’s not my favorite element, but I think it helps to widen the appeal to young viewers while also highlighting the talent of animators.
Episode two focuses on Captain Marvel and covers the character’s comic origin to who she is in the MCU. Brie Larson talks about the physical demands for the role and how training to become Captain Marvel showed her that she was a lot stronger than she knew. Outside of the hero, Carol Danvers is someone who keeps finding the strength to get up no matter how many times she’s knocked down. She is one of the most powerful characters in the universe, but also a regular person. Editor Debbie Berman shares about fighting to keep a take in the film where Carol says her name and sheds a tear, because it represented how one could be strong and tap into their emotions at the same time.
For the third episode, the focus is on Scarlet Witch with a big emphasis on WandaVision. Along with Elizabeth Olsen, Teyonah Parris, and Kat Dennings, the writing team including Jac Schaeffer discuss the show and Wanda Maximoff’s evolution. This episode doesn’t include as much comic animation as the previous entries, but comic title cards list the various stages of grief that are the underlying themes explored throughout WandaVision.
The final entry in the current MPower lineup is about Gamora and her role in the Guardians of the Galaxy. But of course you can’t discuss Gamora without bringing up her adopted sister, Nebula and found family members like Mantis, Peter Quill and Drax. Aside from Zoë Saldaña, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, and Chris Pratt all comment on the character and what it was like working with Zoe. As with the Black Panther entry, there’s a lot of behind the scenes footage with a fair amount of time devoted to explaining the creation of Gamora’s look. Fans of the character will also appreciate that actress Ariana Greenblatt who played young Gamora in Infinity War is featured here too. She talks about her first day on set, meeting Saldaña and seeing herself in her favorite character.
No further installments have been announced, but I wouldn't be surprised if additional chapters are planned under the MPower banner. There are many more female characters in the Marvel universe to focus on even more women working hard to bring these stories to audiences across various forms of media. While I hope this isn’t the last we see of MPower, what’s here is a wonderful peek into the MCU that fans of all ages can appreciate and embrace.